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Vast Majority of New York Support Increased State Investments in Conservation

ALBANY—December 2, 2015—A newly-released statewide bi-partisan public opinion survey shows that New Yorkers overwhelmingly support increasing public investment in the state’s environmental quality. The survey revealed extraordinary support statewide, across party lines in every demographic—confirming that voters understand investing in clean water, resilient infrastructure, and conserving natural resources are essential to building strong, healthy communities and economic prosperity in New York. The public release of the survey coincides with this week’s international focus on climate change and the environment in Paris.

The public opinion survey, commissioned by the Open Space Institute, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and the Adirondack Council, was conducted by a bipartisan team of polling firms to assess public support for proposals to enhance funding for land, water, and wildlife conservation in the state.*

Among the survey’s results are that New York voters overwhelmingly favor a new environmental bond measure (the last environmental bond act dates back to 1996), and that the public is eager to restore funding to the existing Environmental Protection Fund. Notably, 70 percent of voters said they would vote “yes” on a $5 billion bond act to protect clean air and water in the state. Among an array of potential uses of conservation funding, protecting water quality and rebuilding failing infrastructure are top priorities for New York voters. More than seven in ten voters also back providing funding for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million per year—that pre-recession goal has not been achieved despite the economic recovery.

Support for investing in New York’s environment transcends party lines, is consistent across the state, and is important to all surveyed groups of voters. In fact, a majority of all voter segments surveyed support investments that will ensure water quality, help prepare for and cope with extreme weather events, and conserve our natural resources for future generations.

This public opinion survey is the latest in a series of surveys conducted over the past decade to gauge voter interest and support in environmental investment. While interest has been trending up over the past decade, the results of this most recent survey reflect extraordinarily high interest in and support for conservation initiatives.

Other key specific findings from the survey include:

  • Water quality and infrastructure rank among voters’ top concerns.
  • Voters overwhelmingly support a conservation bond measure for New York State. Seventy percent said they would vote for a bond measure to fund clean water, clean air and infrastructure projects. Significantly, there are nearly three times as many “definitely yes” as “definitely no” voters, a reliable predictor that a bond measure would pass.
  • Shares of “yes” voters were robust across a variety of demographic groups, such as:
  • Majorities in each party: 81 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of Republicans, and 68 percent of independents;
  • Three-quarters (76%) of women, and nearly two-thirds (65%) of men;
  • More than four in five (83%) voters of color, and 66 percent of white voters; and
  • Twice as many upstate voters said they would vote “yes” (61 percent) as “no” (32 percent), while New York City voters were also strongly in favor at 77 percent “yes.”

Voters remained supportive, even when faced with hypothetical household cost estimates—70% supported the measure for a cost of $33 a year and 61% supported the measure for a cost of $55 a year.

  • Water and disaster preparedness are voters’ clear top priorities—but they believe a wide array of conservation funding projects are important. New York voters are by far most supportive of conservation spending on water quality and rebuilding infrastructure, and they also support funding programs that preserve forests and wildlife habitat, improve air quality, keep parks open and well-maintained and provide public access to waterfronts.
  • New York voters also strongly support fully funding the Environmental Protection Fund. Voters were offered a description of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, which was created to provide reliable funding to protect clean drinking water, natural areas, state parks and farmland, and to protect public health. More than seven in ten (73%) voters said they support fully funding the Environmental Protection Fund.
  • Taken together, the survey results indicate that voters show a clear interest in conservation and would support a variety of mechanisms to increase state investments in programs that protect clean drinking water, increase community resilience and reduce impacts from extreme weather, and protect land and water for future generations.

“This poll confirms that New Yorkers overwhelmingly recognize the importance of protecting our natural resources and ensuring that our communities are environmentally healthy and strong. Moreover, it provides a clear message that voters are willing to pay for improved environmental security through enhanced investment in reliable and resilient infrastructure, water and air quality and the long-term protection of forests, habitats, parks and farmland,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute.

“New Yorkers’ willingness to fund conservation investments demonstrates that across the state, regardless of politics, people understand how important clean water, resilient infrastructure, and protecting the state’s incredible natural resources are—community prosperity, recreation and tourism opportunities, quality of life, and the potential for economic development all depend on making sure that we make the needed investment to protect our environmental resources,” said Stuart Gruskin, Chief Conservation and External Affairs Officer for The Nature Conservancy in New York.

"In the advent of more severe climate-driven weather events, and recognition by global leaders of the devastating impacts of Sea Level Rise, drought and episodic weather events on our neighborhoods and local economies--the role of land conservation as buffers that protect our communities and drinking water has never been more important. The Trust for Public Land's Return on Investment Study shows that every $1 invested from the Environmental Protection Fund on land and water conservation produces a $7 economic return for New York that supports local businesses and tourism. It is encouraging that New Yorker voters demonstrate such widespread support for environmental funding,” said Marc Matsil, New York State Director for The Trust for Public Land.

“When it comes to the Adirondack Park, New York voters know that investments in clean water, wilderness and wildlife are investments in the future and the health and resiliency of our communities,” William C. Janeway, Executive Director of the Adirondack Council. “Tourism and agriculture are top industries. Adirondack businesses depend on state investments in clean air, pure water, healthy forests and scenic beauty.”

*Methodology: Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) and Public Opinion Strategies (POS) conducted a statewide telephone survey, on landline and wireless phones, of 800 New York voters likely to cast ballots in November 2016. The survey was conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 4, 2015. The margin of sampling error for the full study is +/- 3.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level; margins of error for population subgroups will be higher.

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